KARACHI, July 5: Anti-drug smuggling agencies here seize only a small fraction of the heroin smuggled from Afghanistan through Pakistan and trafficked in the global market, it emerged on Thursday.
Between 210 and 240 tonnes of heroin was smuggled from Afghanistan and reached the global market after passing through Pakistan last year, said a customs official, Habib Ahmed, while speaking to Dawn on the sidelines of an international conference, titled “Control drugs — control crimes”, organised by Pakistan Customs.
Even the global figures of heroin seizures were not very encouraging, he said, adding that out of every 500 tonnes produced, 58 tonnes (11 per cent) were seized in 2009.
He said that while consolidated figures for seizures of heroin in Pakistan were not readily available with him, the total figure was well below one tonne.
Regarding heroin production, he said that 6,000 tonnes of opium, which was over 90 per cent of the global produce last year, was grown in Afghanistan, while 610 tonnes of opium was produced in Myanmar, 25 tonnes in Laos, 10 tonnes in Mexico and nine tonnes in Colombia.
Since conversion ratio of opium to heroin was around 10 to 1, it was roughly estimated that Afghanistan produced 600 tonnes of heroin last year, he added.
He said that over 85 per cent of the heroin produced in Afghanistan was grown in the provinces — Hilmand (66 per cent), Kandahar (nine per cent), Farah (10 per cent) — neighbouring Pakistan.
He said that heroin produced in Afghanistan took four routes to reach global markets — some 25 per cent of the product (nearly 150 tonnes) was smuggled through a northern route to reach Russia after passing through Central Asian republics to cater to 1.8 million addicts.
Between 35 and 40 per cent of the heroin (between 210 and 240 tonnes) was smuggled through Pakistan to reach the global markets, ranging from the Americas to Australia, Africa to Europe and China. While two other routes used by the smugglers passed through the Balkans and the Caucasus.
He said the heroin was mostly seized from passengers usually at airports or occasionally at the sea port from the cargo, which usually was in kilograms, showing that the bulk of the heroin — over 200 tonnes that is estimated to be worth between $25 and $30 billion — annually passed through Pakistan “safely”.
He said that Pakistan was primarily a transit country for opiates / heroin produced in Afghanistan while it also had an estimated 500,000 heroin addicts out of whom around 60,000 injected drugs.
There are, according to WHO estimates, between 46,000 and 210,000 adult HIV positive cases and 689 out of 2,903 reported HIV positive cases are Injecting Drug Users (IDUs).
Giving a comparison of heroin prices, the customs official said that a kilo of heroin cost $2,000 in Afghanistan, $4,000 in Pakistan, $376,000 in Australia, $325,000 in Canada, $255,000 in Japan; $131,000 in the US, $100,000 in Europe, $96,000 in Russia and $52,000 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
He said that if an Afghan farmer produced opium he would earn roughly six times more than what he would earn if he had sown a wheat crop. The ratio changed every year, he said, adding that in 2004 it was 12 times while in 2008 and 2009 it dropped to just three times.
He said that out of a total of $80 billion heroin trade, the farmers got only $1 billion while the rest went to different pockets in the contraband supply chain. He said that over $80 billion was spent on the treatment of around 21 million addicts across the world.
He also gave details regarding cocaine, which was produced in Bolivia (113 tonnes), Colombia (450 tonnes), and Peru (302 tonnes), totalling to 865 tonnes. Its per kilo prices were $1,300 in Peru, $2,300 in Colombia and Bolivia, $171,000 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, $148,000 in Russia, $156,000 in Pakistan, $60,000 in Europe; $27,000 in the US and $39,000 in Canada.
Out of the $90 billion global cocaine trade the farmers in three producing countries got just around $1.5 billion.
Check on sale of fertilizers
Another well-researched presentation was given by FBI agent David Carrol regarding the use of chemicals, particularly fertilizers, in the preparation of explosives. He informed the audience in detail about the different chemicals used in explosives, which were otherwise used for legitimate purposes as well.
Asked how its misuse could be monitored when fertilizer was freely available across the country, he said there were no shortcuts. The producers and sellers would have to ensure that they recognised their customers / purchasers and knew the purpose of purchase and that it would not be misused, he added.
Islamabad-based Royal Canadian Mounted Police liaison officer, Roch Cote, who is also the chief of Foreign Law Enforcement Community (FLEC), said that with every passing year, the drug problem was getting worse and international drug cartels were becoming more aggressive in attacking new markets with ever-changing drug distribution patterns and skills in concealment and handling money from the sales.
He said that foreign drug liaison officers based in Islamabad met once a month, under leadership of Naomi Binstead from Australian Federal Police, to exchange ideas on how to combat drug traffickers in Pakistan and surrounding countries.
Earlier, FBR chief Mumtaz Rizvi said that many active drug routes passed through Pakistan and though various agencies did their part, customs had a vital role to play.
He said that a lot of improvement was needed to control the menace, which was growing with the passage of time. He said that the issue was enormous and complex and Pakistan was doing what it could and the international community also would have to play its role and help the country check the trade in the contraband.
Officials from various countries — including Italy, Germany, Malaysia, the UAE, Bahrain, Thailand, China, Indonesia, Morocco, Russia, Qatar, Norway, the US (Homeland Security, DEA, etc), Switzerland, France, China, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Australia and Sri Lanka — also attended the conference.
Besides, officials belonging to Pakistan Coast Guards, Anti-Narcotics Force, Maritime Security Agency, Airports Security Force, the National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency also informed the audience about their respective organisations role in combating the narcotics-related activities.